From Rags to Riches

By Taylor W.

It’s a rare occurrence to find food shifting from “poor man’s meat” to “rich man’s dinner” but that is exactly what happened to the Maine lobster. In the 17th century lobsters were washing up on the shore in two foot high mounds easily accessible to anyone that found themselves near a beach. They were considered poor man’s protein because they were so plentiful[1]. However, a major shift happened in the early 19th century when major cities like Boston and New York started serving the crustacean as a high end meal[2]. The lack of knowledge of the lobster’s history and some clever marketing quickly changed lobsters into a rich man’s dinner. There are two theories that directly relate to this lobster phenomena, Symbolic and Cultural evolution. The ways an anthropologist would interpret this situation would differ depending on the theory they used.

An anthropologist would look at this situation and apply symbolic theory, and try to discover what lobsters symbolize. They would do this by asking some questions like who the lobsters were eaten by, where these people ate lobster, and finally what lobsters symbolized during this time. In the 17th century their answers would be that people who ate lobsters were the poor and the accused. Eating lobsters in prisons and on the streets. It was a very common food to find, therefore, it was for the commoner. It was even seen as cruel and unusual punishment to feed a prisoner lobster more than three times a week[3]. This food symbolized the commoner, it symbolized poverty, and no respectable person would ever be seen eating it. But in the early 19th century the symbolic meaning for lobster completely changed. Now if one asked the same questions the answers would be much different. Now people who ate lobsters would be rather well off, eating with friends or on a date in the fanciest of restaurants. The lobster now symbolized the wealthy.

Another way to look at this situation would be to look at how the culture surrounding lobsters changed by using cultural evolution. This theory would determine that people in the 17th century were more primitive for eating dead lobster and considering it a poor man’s food. They would see that they were still humans consuming the food, but they learned and evolved to cook the lobster, and to consider it a meal that was actually worthy of being eaten. They would see that the “primitive peoples” ideas shifted to form a more civilized view of the modern day lobster in a linear way.  The cultural change in this situation is severely significant. The whole idea behind lobster evolved and completely changed people’s view of the lobster. The lobster did not change and evolve over time, the way humans view lobster changed.

In nearly 2 centuries the lobster went from most hated crustacean to being one of the tastiest meals one can sit down and eat, becoming a significant part of American north-east culture. Everything about lobsters evolved, especially what they symbolize.

[1] http://www.history.com/news/a-taste-of-lobster-history Accessed August 15 2014

[2] http://www.freshmainelobster.com/the-popularity-of-maine-lobsters/ Accessed August 16 2014

[3] http://www.lobsters.org/tlcbio/biology.html Accessed August 15 2014

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53 Responses to From Rags to Riches

  1. Juliana says:

    It is so interesting how meaning in certain objects change across time and place. Why do you think the shift occurred where people disassociated lobster with poverty and the commoner? Maybe it has to do with the fact that it became more rare after people were eating it so commonly when it was inexpensive.

    • Calder Justice says:

      I would be interested in the exploration of this thought. Does the massive supply of a good relegate it to the common person? Does then the food that is most difficult to find or produce always rise to be classified as fine dining? Potatoes, for instance, are cheap and easy to grow in mass. Do you think it would suddenly become classified as a delicacy if for some reason they became very difficult to grow? The answer would present an interesting view on humanity and what becomes valued and why.

  2. Andrew Sullivan says:

    Very good points. It also seems that the environment in which people ate the lobsters may have impacted its consumption; for example New England vs. here in Colorado

    • Lexi Eagle says:

      I definitely agree, Andrew.
      The shipment of lobster from Maine/the northeast coast to other parts of the United States has practical effects on the price; lobster will be necessarily more expensive far away from its source because of prices of packaging, shipping, etc. However, I’m more intrigued by the initial shift in demand for lobster, a result of the symbolism surrounding lobster. If lobster was, as Taylor argues, a symbol of the poor or the criminal, why did this symbol shift to one of high value? Why would transport of lobster take place at all, if it was a food which was reserved for the impoverished and imprisoned? Examination of the shift in symbolic meaning could tell us a lot about the culture surrounding lobster.

      • Madeline says:

        I agree that shipping of lobster out to the other locations would definitely have the biggest impact on the price and the demand going up. If you begin to ship to other places it becomes less abundant where it once was. I also believe a big reason they shifted to a status symbol food is just because they were so abundant and a few people realized how easy it would be to commercialize them and make lots of money, so they did and they succeeded.

  3. Kirsten Jaqua says:

    Interesting concept. I agree with Andrew that a large part of the lobster’s shift probably had to do with export. In a similar way, quinoa became a very popular, expensive, trendy food here in America whereas it was a staple food in South America among certain peoples. So I would include the idea that yes, it symbolizes something to people–but it may symbolize something different based on location as well as time-period. For a landlocked and dry desert location like Colorado, it makes sense that it should be a more expensive/prestigious food.

    • Kaleigh C says:

      I agree with most of this statement, especially in how quinoa and other “fad” foods become idealized in America. When we picture lobster, we picture elegance and class just as other foods such as kale and quinoa have attached meanings of health that Americans have added to them. Though I disagree with the final statement, Colorado is a landlocked state and sea food is a luxury in general, but lobster still remains expensive no matter where in America one goes.

  4. Michaela Cavanagh says:

    This essay is so cool in the fact that no one really thinks about the story of the lobster except for when you see it on your menu and quickly look away due to its expensive price. I think if you went more in depth as to how the lobster went drastically from rags to riches specifically, in your cultural evolution paragraph besides just explaining the cooking process, readers could grasp this idea better. Other than that, I enjoyed your paper over all and your symbolic evolution paragraph really helped me understand the concept of symbolic evolution better!

  5. Anna Wood says:

    In response to what Andrew commented, I think location has A LOT to do with the social value of lobster. I think this is particularly interesting, especially since I know from personal experience that Maine has had an abundance of lobster in the last 5 years or so and so lobster is slowly transitioning back to an affordable price. However just because it is becoming cheaper, it does not necessarily mean the US people will be able to get away from the classification as a delicacy. Perhaps this is because nowadays (as opposed to the 18th century) a larger portion of the US population lives away from the coasts. Thus in places like Colorado, lobster still maintains the intrigue of imported food and requires transport and thus will be more pricey no matter how abundant the shellfish is in New England.

  6. Ian McClain says:

    This was an interesting topic and definitely shows how the perception of certain food has changed throughout time. I liked how you choose to examine this through the Cultural Evolution hypothesis because even though we like to think that this ethnocentric view has become somewhat obsolete today, we often judge, or divide people based on the kind of foods that they can afford to eat. Another interesting theory to examine this topic would be through Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead’s Culture and Personality. They would most likely ask questions along the lines of: How many other societies around the world have put values on people based on what they eat? Does this cultural element create certain kinds of people and proliferate individuals without wealth making it harder for them to increase their social standing? What are some of the unique and individualistic ways people express their feelings on what other people are eating?

  7. Camille says:

    I really enjoyed this article, interesting topic that sheds much relevance on how certain foods, like lobster, within our American society has evolved. I liked how you incorporated the two anthropological theories of cultural and symbolic evolution. Many foods we consume today have evolved over time and continue to change in their symbolic and culture meaning. For example, coffee: more specifically, espresso drinks have culturally and symbolically evolved in the contemporary U.S. society. How did this change occur and what/who influenced this?

  8. Nayantara Nelson says:

    This shows just how symbolism within a society can define how much something is worth based on the perspective of the people in that cultural. How meaning changes over time reflects on how the culture changes and also how the select few can purposefully change it. Just by changing the way the lobster is cooked and how it is advertised to people, completely changed the perspective of lobster from one end of the wealth spectrum to the other. It would be interesting to explore how people, like those who convinced their consumers away from a historical perspective, can specifically instigate a change in culture. Using this concept as way of changing peoples perspective on moral issues would be difficult but not impossible.

  9. Chelsea McGuire says:

    In light of the other blog post about table manners I think this lobster blog is an ironic topic. It is impossible to gracefully tear apart this fine dining meal. One time I ate lobster at a kind of ritzy event on the beach, on a day that was colder than it should have been, in a huge coat, with a bib, the wind blowing, and trying to appear impressive in front of a bunch of people I consider extremely successful. It’s baffling to me the things that our society tells us are luxurious. Although cultural evolution usually seems closed minded and I cringe at many of its implications, I couldn’t help but see a valid point when you mentioned people eating uncooked lobster. Evolution doesn’t equal progress most of the time, but in this case cooking lobster certainly wasn’t a bad idea.

    • MelissaDanielle Lauro says:

      This is an interesting connection, and something I have thought about quite a bit before. People pay hundreds of dollars in restaurants for a meal that they have to crush, rip and tear apart with their hands, something that is not typically seen as polite in American culture, but with lobster and other similar foods a blind eye seems to be turned. Perhaps this is actually part of the reason lobster became so popular in the metropolitan upper class? It is a chance for them to be messy, play with their food, and be a bit destructive, all while still being ‘classy’.

    • Jacqueline Joyal says:

      I also think this is an interesting point! Lobster is not easy to eat and look classy at the same time. In fact it’s downright impossible. Whenever I’ve eaten lobster its always been in a very informal setting. I’ve had lobster in large buttered rolls at a food truck to my aunts large plastic covered dining table. It seems that when it is served at fancy restaurants it is never served “as is”. Lobster is usually served without the shell, or if it is served with the shell, it has been taken out, cooked, and placed back in the shell as part of the show. It is truly fascinating the difference in how lobster is served. In a way, it still is a food for the “simple” person.

  10. Kelly Curtis says:

    If this was a longer paper assignment I think it would be really interesting to elaborate on the differences in prices between the different lobster species today. I have never eaten lobster, but isn’t the Maine lobster the most expensive and the lower coastal lobster is less desired? Then maybe tie that into Cultural Evolution to explain the two paths that each type of lobster took and the impact on the price and demand expressed in today’s culture.

  11. Taylor Thostenson says:

    This essay was very insightful to read. A question I thought of while reading this essay is did people eating lobster in the 17th century not realize how wonderful to taste it was? Of course this is a theoretical question and obviously they did not but I think it would be interesting to know why the switch was made from being a poor mans food to a wealthy mans food? Also, it would be interesting to know in detail what types of advertisements were created to change this point of view on lobsters? Overall super interesting essay and I learned a lot!

  12. Ben Sardinsky says:

    To Taylor Thostenson, one of the main reasons people didn’t believe lobsters believe were tasty was because of the way it was prepared. Huge canneries operated on the New England coast, canning lobster meat so it would last for ages and could be consumed further inland. Not quite the skillfully prepared, fresh, butter-drenched way it’s served nowadays.
    It’s not likely that this change in presentation is the reason for this shift in attitude towards lobster though. Imagine that you an Inuit were to approach you and say, “I’ve heard that you don’t like to eat seal eyeballs! Is this true? How could you not understand how tasty they are!” No matter how tastefully a dish of fresh seal eyeballs is presented, it’s unlikely that any contemporary American would find them appetizing. It is more likely that lobster began to be prepared more skillfully only after a cultural shift in the stigma towards lobster.
    The culture may have shifted as a result of elitism. That is, as the lobster population began to be pressed by over -fishing its rarity may have made it appealing to the wealthy as a symbol of power, the power to procure rare goods for oneself. As it came to be associated more and more with wealth it would come into contact with more skilled chefs who transformed it into the delicacy we know today.

    • Ben Sardinsky says:

      GGGGAH I LEFT TYPOS AND NO EDITING FEATURE, that’s gonna drive me nuts.

    • Andrew Deckenbach says:

      I think your comment about the huge canneries on the New england coast is an important part of the shift. The 20th century began to be able to ship goods and services all over America. Being able to get any kind of fresh seafood in the middle of the country was a status symbol in itself. The fact that lobsters can be kept alive in water for extended periods of time with very little probably made it a very easy seafood to distribute anywhere.

  13. Larkin says:

    I think this essay is really interesting. My mom went to college in Maine, and has told stories of going out sailing and eating fresh caught lobster for every meal for weeks. Ironically she now has a shellfish allergy, but that’s besides the point. She was in college during the 80’s which I assume was a time when lobster was, if not already, beginning to become a high end food. But if we look at regional cultures, I think we will still be able to see that even as lobster went from “rags to riches”, the core areas from which lobsters have always been a main meal still use lobster in the “rags” and the “riches”. But with the oceans health quickly depleting, and global warming making a huge impact on our oceans, I wonder if soon the lobster and other seafood delicacies will become something of the past as more and more of the population look towards preservations of sea creates and the environment. Can lobster go from “rags to riches to rags again”?

  14. Stephanie Grossart says:

    My entire family, minus myself, loves seafood. It is a special night if my dad cooks lobster. I would never have considered lobster as “poor mans food”. It is interesting to learn that symbolically, lobster in the 17th century was undesirable and associated with the poor. Now lobster is a fancy treat for those who can afford it. The lobster didn’t change whatsoever, the way society viewed it changed. After hearing the brief history of the consumption of lobster, Cultural evolution fits perfectly. As we evolved and learned how to properly prepare lobster, it became a delicacy. I wonder what the actual turning point was. Who decided lobster was now for the rich?
    Where was it decided and how? Was there backlash?

  15. Angela Gianficaro says:

    I found this essay particularly interesting. Being from the East Coast, I have some background on the popularity of seafood, including lobster, in this particular area. I feel Taylor did a great job at connecting the topic of lobster to the symbolic theory, and it is unbelievable how the symbolization of something can completely change its meaning. Labeling lobster as a “poor man’s meat” can alter one’s opinion of it even if it is a plentiful, tasty food. I find it ironic that years after this symbolization occurred, people are paying large sums of money to eat this same food at a fancy restaurant. This was a great example of how something can be completely redefined by the way people view it.

  16. Cody Patten says:

    I found this essay to be very interesting. I had no idea if how lobsters has evolved over time, and this is just one of many foods that I am sure has adapted to societies around us. It just shows how easily something can be changed from nothing into something. I would have liked to hear more about how it became such a high class food rather tan the cooking process. I think that would’ve helped a lot and given the reader a better grasp of how it came from rags to riches. I think that for the length of this paper though it was ut together very well and easy to follow.

  17. Jessica Wentworth says:

    The use of cultural evolution was very interesting and over all this really helped me understand it more clearly. Its hard to believe that such a major shift of how this food was portrayed happened in such a short period of time. The symbolism of lobster in our society now is clearly a rich mans dinner and its hard to imagine us feeding prisoners lobster 3 times a week! I also think it would be interesting to know more about the clever marketing that happened to change the views of one specific food on a nationwide level.

  18. Jenna Scott says:

    Reading this essay was a culture shock to me. I had never known that something that in today’s society is a delicacy and is often quite expensive was once seen as one of the ‘poor man’s food’ options. When you used the theory of symbolism, it is quite true that in todays society it is a symbol of wealth and almost luxury. And in this essay I thought it was intriguing how such a symbol in culture can in fact evolve to have an altogether new meaning.

  19. Kelsey Spalding says:

    I really enjoyed learning about the cultural shifts in society in regards to the lobster industry. Being from the East Coast lobster was a delicacy to have in the summer time, and I had no idea about its previous reputation. Nice use of symbolism in this essay, I think lobster is something that everyone in the contemporary United States knows to be a high end food item and it is very interesting on how food perceptions can change our social discourse. It would have be interesting to note on how cooking techniques may have changed the way it has been viewed and how ecological depletion can play a role in what food items are valued more highly.

  20. Logan Arlen says:

    I love how simple it is for marketing to change an entire society’s perception on something much like how baby boys are associated with blue and girls with pink. It speaks a lot about people and how we are so easily swayed by what people tell us. I think it would be really cool to see an essay that went more in depth on how people react to such a 180 perspective change.

  21. Julia Marino says:

    I found this article incredibly interesting how Taylor was able to connect the idea of symbolism with lobster. Even being from Boston, I did not know the history behind the transformation of this “poor man’s food” to the current delicacy that society views lobster as today. This is a strong example of symbolic theory and the way that Taylor broke down how the meaning of lobster in the 17th century allowed for me to have a better understanding of how I could apply symbolic theory to other topics. If this assignment could be longer, I would be keen to know if different preparations of lobster could allow for people in society to not view it as a delicacy. I initially thought of this idea due to where I am from a lobster roll is not considered an over the top delicacy but rather a simple sandwich and is on a majority of lunch menus for a not so over the top price. I understand that this is due to the location of Boston being incredibly close to the ocean and that it does not need to be shipped across the country. I think it would be beneficial to look at parts of the country where lobster is reasonably priced in comparison to places where it can only be imported which leads to high prices and how people in these different locations have different social views on the value of lobster.

  22. Mariah Stoneman says:

    This article definitely caught my attention immediately because of my love for lobster. And now my knowledge of lobster is enlightened. I would have never guessed lobster to be a “poor man’s food” but it does makes sense. I’d like to know more about how the lobster was distributed in the 17th century compared to the 19th century. In what manner did the prisoners and poor eat the lobster versus the manner a rich man would eat the lobster? Did the poor recognize that they were eating lobster/ was it consumed in the same, fancy way a rich man would consume it? Great essay overall.

  23. Helen says:

    I had lobster for the first time this summer and it definitely seemed like “rich mans food.” So it is very Interesting to learn about how it expeerienced a shift in it’s reputation. Your essay enforces the idea that marketing can really change who consumes a product and how it is seen. Looking at lobsters through cultural revolution does help point out how it went from being a “primitive” food to a more rich food because it’s preparation changed. However, I do believe that your symbolic theory arguement works better then the cultural evolution argument. This is because it seems that lobsters are a symbol of cultural change, not causing change or being the only representation of change. Overall, this essay was engaging and well-written.

  24. Sydney Britsch says:

    I already knew about the history of lobster and I like how you portrayed the shift from “rags to riches.” You emphasized that it wasn’t the lobster that changed, it was our culture’s view and definition of lobster that changed. This article is making me question if lobster is considered a delicacy around the world or just particular to our culture. It is also really intriguing that this concept applies to so many other aspects of life. For example, today in class we were talking about how sexuality is something that varies by culture and changes over time. It would be interesting and a little humorous to compare what is considered sexy now to the 17th century when lobsters were saved for the poor.

  25. Alex S. says:

    It’s interesting how so many different theoretical approaches could be applied to this topic. A Functionalist Anthropologist might view the evolutionary status of lobster as a means of supply and demand in society. Lobster became food for the rich because it became scarce and if it remained attainable by everyone then it would quickly become scarce again. As opposed to letting it become scarce and eventually not having it as a popular food item, lobster continues to be a delicacy, allowing lobstermen to maintain jobs, and the rich to feel fancy. Lobster also seems to be beneficial to the economy when looking at how much is generated for business.

  26. Frank Minor says:

    I never knew that the lobster was once viewed as the food of the poor, or that lobsters washed up on shore in such numbers. I think it is interesting how you applied cultural evolution to the dish of lobster, but that makes tons of sense. Bringing a bunch of lobsters from New England to New York City would have definitely been a catalyst for this change, because of some of the sheer wealth held by the ultra-rich during the Gilded age. I would imagine that these people enjoyed lobsters, and because they are imported they become more expensive, and thus, associated with the upper class.

  27. Annie Birkeland says:

    This is a fascinating topic- I had no idea that the status of lobster has changed so radically over the years. I am very curious as to what ‘clever marketing’ completely transformed the way lobster was viewed. I wonder if there was some deeper connotation to what lobster was called or the way it was sold that changed over time? An interesting phenomenon that this made me think of was the transformation of prunes. Prunes used to be quite detested and associated as a food for old people. The word ‘prune’ had a very negative connotation, but when marketers began labeling their product as ‘dried plums’ (which are the same thing) their popularity skyrocketed. I wonder if a similar marketing ploy was used to sell lobster to the public.

  28. maddysimonds says:

    I found it very interesting what has happened to lobster I had no idea that it was ever a “poor man’s meat” because it is so emphasized today how expensive the treat really is. I think cultural evolution is the perfect way to look at this because it demonstrates exactly how the food has evolved over time to become so different. The sybolic representation of the lobster is also very on point. The food itself can specifically symbolize or represent the person who is eating it and their social class, no matter the point in history.

    Madison Simonds

  29. Justine G. says:

    This concept is so interesting! I really never thought about the history of the lobster!
    First, it is a food that I, myself, have so rarely eaten in my life. Lobster is something that I grew up knowing as “for special occasions only”. To think that prisoners having lobster more than three times a week was something disgraceful, is so mind-boggling. It’s hard to imagine that lobsters were that plentiful and thought of as something for only poor people!

  30. Christian Rencken says:

    Interesting how the evolution of business and marketing can create a ripple effect on the evolution of cultural food. Your line in the third paragraph, “The lobster did not change and evolve over time, the way humans view lobster changed,” really nails your whole essay on the head, and was an excellent way to finish. Also, good use of symbolic anthropology, because today’s lobster of the US is a widely recognized symbol of affluence more so than a symbol of taste.

  31. Mackenzie Carson says:

    Before reading this paper I was actually unaware that lobster used to be the poor man’s meat. It’s so fascinating that there can be such a dramatic shift in the culture that surrounds a food. I liked how you addressed that aspect when using the cultural evolution theory.

  32. Olivia Smith says:

    This is very interesting. I actually didn’t know that about lobster. Im curious if lobster would be considered more of a high-end, more expensive meal for land locked states across the US than for those near the coast or is it that no matter where you are, lobster is lobster and its pretty much the same everywhere. Also, thinking about the differences in marine life in the Pacific and Atlantic, is lobster considered more of a delicacy for Pacific and Gulf states since lobster is so common in the north Atlantic?

  33. James Cumming says:

    Your critique of symbolic anthropology does well to establish the fundamental concept that cultural symbolism argues; humans create and modify symbols to establish significance and meaning within material culture. It is interesting to think about how the symbolic status of eating lobster has changed only within a few centuries, do you think that it will continue to be associated with the wealthy or will it eventually fluctuate back down to the ‘poor mans’ food? I suppose this would depend on the lobster population growth or decline. I wonder if this sense of status symbol correlates any material that is in abundance, as this decreases its value economically as supply beats out the demand, or vice versa. We tend to create meaning out of very little to portray cultural dynamics and in this case hierarchical ideologies. This meaning gives the individual something to hold on to and be able to associate with when confronted by its presence. Well written essay, it was to the point and gave solid examples to back up its claims.

  34. Brian Clark says:

    Its kind of strange to think that this sort of phenomenon could probably never happen again in the US. Our production, transport, and saving of food is so vast that we can have essentially fresh food anywhere in the country and we don’t really have to worry about running out of a certain product.

    • I don’t know if that is necessarily true. I mean, I doubt that nowadays a food will go from unpopular to popular simply because it washed up on shore in large quantities, but the phenomenon of things being made popular through clever marketing happens constantly. Quinoa was mentioned above, but all sorts of products are made to look appealing for one reason or another. Just think of the use of fad diets to promote different sorts of eating. And there can be an overabundance or a shortage of different sorts of foods, depending on the health of animals, the quality of a fishing year, whether there is drought in a given area, etc (as in the case of Chik-fil-a, ideology can change people’s diets). This will affect the foods that local people eat, and the way that food is distributed and marketed in different areas.

  35. Madelyn Wisell says:

    It was interesting to see what the symbolism of lobster is, and how it’s changed over the years. I think the cultural evolutionist followed with the symbolism in how people’s view on lobster, especially in America, has changed over the years. How it once was a poor man’s god and now it’s seen as a luxury. It would be interesting to see this develop into a full length paper and look at the evolution n more detail. I would also like to know what an anthropologist would say led to this shift in the view of the lobster, and what they would say about Maine lobster being “better.”

  36. Leah Longmire says:

    This was really cool to read, I had no idea that at one point lobster was considered a “poor mans protein”. It seems that the association between high class and eating lobster has remained consistent for many years, I wonder if it will ever return to it’s original roots. If cultural anthropologists were to look at the lobster now, would they view those eating the lobster as barbaric because of its origin, or would they view other culture that don’t consume lobster as primitive because of the social status that is related with lobster now?

  37. AYURU KONDO says:

    I agree this idea and this it is good points. It little bit looks like Japanese Sushi culture. In the beginning, it was fast food for Edo commoner. It has many Sushi stand in the city. However after WW2, Sushi stand was prohibited by law (because of hygiene) then it became high ranked food. I think it is interesting these phenomena is occur different country.

  38. Charlie Travis says:

    I thought your article was pretty interesting and I actually had no idea lobsters used to be associated with lower classes. I think this phenomena really illustrates the immense impact our peers have in how we value and devalue various things. While reading your article I thought of how clothing companies use similar manipulation methods as the restaurants did in order to market what they want to sell. Often companies will try to associate their brand or logo with a celebrity or they just emphasize the logo of their company to present it as a superior product. Two cotton t-shirts can have a price difference of a couple hundred dollars depending on whether or not a certain symbol is located on the front of the shirt. The manipulation of symbols directly affects the perceived status of said item. This can be tied to anything that is sold is today and I think a lot of the time many people don’t critically consider that they are paying significantly more money for something that delivers the same function. I think there is a psychological aspect to this. For example, perhaps if you tried to give a wealthy man lobster during the era in which it was “poor man’s food” he would regard it as disgusting and even absurd to consider eating. However, with the status changed using symbolic manipulation, a wealthy man will automatically expect a positive experience, thus leading one to automatically be biased to like the food more despite what it actually tastes like. Our expectations significantly influence how we actually experience what we are paying for. If you expect yourself to look better wearing a Polo T-shirt, you probably are going to think you look better when you look in the mirror. I’m curious to learn what these businessmen actually did to change the perceived status of lobster and how they marketed it to the upper classes. Thanks for sharing

  39. Taylor Hill says:

    I really enjoyed this paper. I had no idea that that was the story behind Maine Lobster. I really enjoyed how you used cultural evolution to describe the change from a poor mans foods to a delicacy. I think that was a very important part of describing its history. It would be interesting to see how other lobster besides Maine lobster came to be considered a rich mans food as well. It would also be interesting to see if any other foods came to be in a similar way.

  40. Josie Anderson says:

    I always wondered about this topic and I’m happy to see some explanation on how lobster has become such a “prestigious” meal. I’ve never eaten lobster but it’s interesting how it used to be poor man’s food. I thought it was always eaten by rich people. It’s also interesting that American restaurants used people’s ignorance to market lobster as a high-end food and it worked. I never thought about the symbolism a lobster, or any food for that matter, has.

  41. Chris Manning says:

    My family is from the east coast, so i grew up eating a lot of seafood, especially lobster. though i knew a little about how it used to be a worthless meat, it is interesting to learn more about the subject as i have always known it to be more of a celebratory meal. Though the price has dropped drastically over the past decade due to increased intake from the east coast and therefore supply of lobster, it is still much more expensive than other seafoods.

  42. Stephanie Scattergood says:

    This is extremely interesting! Did this change happen slowly or was it comparatively sudden? It might be interesting to look at this from a more functional point of view: did lobster become less plentiful as far as the catches go, or was there possibly a shift away from fishing as a profession at all? These would also aid in a shift to lobster becoming a dish for the wealthy.

  43. daca4780 says:

    For someone who has only had lobster once, I wouldn’t travelling back in time and eating as much as I could. I found your essay extremely interesting though! My dad told me about Nova Scotian fisherman that were in poverty and could only afford to eat lobster. I wonder what happened to these fisherman’s wealth status as the transformation of lobster occurred.

  44. Joe Sulik says:

    This is a great essay topic. I always love hearing about stories of famous cultural dishes that originated within the poorest groups of society and migrated to gourmet, high class dining. There is a resurgence in the US in particular, of the use of animal “spare parts” such as hooves, tails, and tongues in gourmet restaurants; and I find the phenomena particularly fascinating.

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